Caril Ann Fugate

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Caril Ann Fugate (born July 30, 1943) is the youngest female in United States history to date to have been tried for first-degree murder.[1] She was the adolescent girlfriend and accomplice of spree killer Charles Starkweather, being just 14 years old when his murders took place in 1958.[2] She was convicted as his accomplice, and sentenced to life imprisonment, though was paroled after 17 years in 1976, and presently lives a private life in Michigan.

Background to crime spree[edit]

Caril Ann Fugate lived in Lincoln, Nebraska, with her mother and stepfather. In 1956, at age 13, she formed a relationship with Charles Starkweather, a high school dropout five years her senior. They met through Caril's sister Barbara, who was dating Starkweather's friend, Bob von Busch. Starkweather worked as a truck unloader at the Western Newspaper Union warehouse. On January 21, 1958,[3] Starkweather shot and killed Fugate's stepfather, Marion Bartlett, and her mother, Velda. Starkweather then hit her baby half-sister, Betty Jean, causing blunt-force trauma, and stabbed her in the neck. Fugate claimed she came home to find Starkweather there alone, waiting for her with a gun. She said he told her that her family was being held hostage and that if she did exactly as he said, her family would be safe. During the next six days, the pair lived in the house and turned away all visitors, which made Fugate's relatives suspicious. The bodies were found later in outbuildings on the property.[4]

Cross-state crime spree[edit]

Starkweather and Fugate then fled, driving across Nebraska and into Wyoming on a spree of murders that claimed six more lives before they were arrested.[4] She admitted holding a .410 shotgun on a young high school couple, Robert Jensen and Carol King [5], in a car while robbing them of $4; the couple were shot and killed later that evening.[citation needed] The girl was found partially nude and was stabbed multiple times in the abdomen after being shot. Starkweather and Fugate accused each other of the girl's murder, while Starkweather openly admitted to killing the boy.[citation needed]


Starkweather was sentenced to death and executed by electric chair on June 25, 1959. He insisted that although he had personally killed most of the victims, Fugate had murdered several as well. Although she continued to maintain her innocence, she was tried and convicted for her role in the murder spree. Based on evidence presented that Fugate had opportunities to leave her captivity, and Starkweather's own testimony, the jury found her testimony that she was Starkweather's hostage to be not credible. She was sentenced to life imprisonment at the Nebraska Correctional Center for Women in York, Nebraska.[1]

Release from prison[edit]

Considered to be a model prisoner, Fugate was paroled in 1976 after serving 17 years.[6] She lived for a time in the Lansing, Michigan area after being paroled.[7] Following her release, Fugate worked as a janitorial assistant and a medical technician, and has since retired.

In 2007, Fugate married Fredrick Clair, a machinist who also worked as a weather observer for the National Weather Service. Their most recent city of residence has been Stryker, Ohio.[8] She now resides in Hillsdale, Michigan. Fugate's stepson states she suffered a series of strokes in her late 60s.[9]

Fugate was seriously injured on August 5, 2013, in a single vehicle accident near Tekonsha, Michigan. Her husband, who was driving their sport utility vehicle when it went off the road and overturned, died at the scene of the accident.[8]

Portrayal in media[edit]

Film and television[edit]

The Starkweather–Fugate case inspired the films The Sadist (1963), Badlands (1973), Kalifornia (1993), Natural Born Killers (1994) and Starkweather (2004). The made-for-TV movie Murder in the Heartland (1993) is a biographical depiction of Fugate and Starkweather, starring Fairuza Balk and Tim Roth in the starring roles. Stark Raving Mad (1983), a film starring Russell Fast and Marcie Severson, provides a fictionalized account of the Starkweather–Fugate murder spree.

The 1996 Peter Jackson film The Frighteners features central plot elements with characters almost identical to Starkweather and Fugate, who commit a murder spree. The fourth episode, "Dangerous Liaisons", of season three from the ID series Deadly Women (aired September 2, 2010) was about the Starkweather–Fugate murders. The first episode, "Teenage Wasteland", of season four from the Investigation Discovery series A Crime to Remember (aired December 6, 2016) portrays the murders and subsequent trial. "The Thirteenth Step", the January 11, 2011, episode of Criminal Minds, depicts newlyweds on a North Dakota-Montana killing spree similar to the Starkweather–Fugate case.[10]


The 1974 book Caril is an unauthorized biography of Caril Ann Fugate written by Ninette Beaver, B.K. Ripley (pen name of Alexandra Ripley), and Patrick Trese.[11] Liza Ward, the granddaughter of victims C. Lauer and Clara Ward, wrote the 2004 novel Outside Valentine, based on the events of the Starkweather–Fugate murder-spree. The 1997 novel Not Comin' Home to You by Lawrence Block fictionally parallels the Starkweather and Fugate crimes.[citation needed] The book Pro Bono: The 18-Year Defense of Caril Ann Fugate by Jeff McArthur follows Caril Fugate's defense team through the trials and the appeals process.[12]

In 2011, art photographer Christian Patterson released Redheaded Peckerwood, a collection of photos taken each January from 2005 to 2010 along the 500 mile route traversed by Starkweather and Fugate. The book includes reproductions of documents and photographs of objects that belonged to Starkweather, Fugate and their victims, several of which Patterson discovered while making his photographs and have never been seen publicly before.[citation needed]


Bruce Springsteen's 1982 song "Nebraska" is a first-person narrative based on the Starkweather-Fugate case; likewise "Badlands" is full of themes regarding alienation and resentment by the protagonist.

The song "Badlands" by Church of Misery on their album Houses of the Unholy centers on the murders and is told from a first-person perspective.[citation needed]

Nicole Dollanganger's 2012 song Nebraska from her 2012 album Flowers of Flesh and Blood is inspired by Caril Ann Fugate and her then boyfriend, Charles Starkweather.


  1. ^ a b Cawthorne, Nigel (2007-01-01). Serial Killers & Mass Murderers: Profiles of the World's Most Barbaric Criminals. Ulysses Press. ISBN 9781569755785.
  2. ^ Rule, Ann (2004). Kiss Me, Kill Me: Ann Rule's Crime Files. Simon and Schuster. p. 224. ISBN 978-0-671-69139-4. Retrieved October 22, 2010.
  3. ^ Wishart, David J. (2004). Encyclopedia of the Great Plains. U of Nebraska Press. p. 462. ISBN 978-0-8032-4787-1. Retrieved October 22, 2010.
  4. ^ a b "CARIL FUGATE IS FOUND GUILTY, GETS LIFE TERM". St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Main ed.). Associated Press. November 21, 1958. pp. 1, 15.
  5. ^
  6. ^ Flowers, R. Barri; H. Loraine Flowers (April 2005). Murders In The United States: Crimes, Killers And Victims Of The Twentieth Century. McFarland. p. 176. ISBN 978-0-7864-2075-9. Retrieved October 22, 2010.
  7. ^ "Badlands murderess who went on killing spree 56 years ago is critically injured in car crash that left her husband dead".
  8. ^ a b Caril Ann Fugate, Infamous 1950s Murder Spree Convict, Critically Injured In Crash That Killed Husband,, August 7, 2013.
  9. ^ New Life Is Redemption for Caril Ann Fugate, Who Still Claims Innocence in Killings,; June 27. 2012.
  10. ^ "Criminal Minds Recap: The Thirteenth Step". October 14, 2011. Archived from the original on October 22, 2012. Retrieved August 10, 2012.
  11. ^ Beaver, Ninette; Ripley, B. K.; Trese, Patrick (1974). Caril. Lippincott. ISBN 978-0-397-00997-8. Retrieved 22 October 2010.
  12. ^ McArthur, Jeff (2012). Pro Bono: The 18-Year Defense of Caril Ann Fugate. Bandwagon Books. ISBN 978-1479108374. Retrieved 15 February 2017.

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